Fair & Lovely is both the leader and pioneer of fairness creams
in India, having launched in 1975, and has borne the brunt of the controversy surrounding the category.
Celebrities, experts, and the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) have repeatedly emphasised the need for marketers of fairness products to adjust and adapt to the changing definition of beauty, which is about accepting people as they are. While the ASCI has guidelines in place for marketers of such products, in February, the health ministry proposed stiff penalties for those making misleading claims about fairness.
There was no clarity yet on what other players such as Emami or L'Oréal proposed to do. A mail sent to L'Oréal India elicited no response till the time of going to press.
A spokesperson of Emami, which owns the 'Fair & Handsome brand, said the company was studying all implications currently. "We, as responsible corporate citizens, value consumer sentiments and take cognisance of the holistic approach that is required to be taken to address their needs. We are studying all implications currently and evaluating internally to decide our next course of action," the spokesperson said.
But brand experts expect companies
to change their marketing tactics as protests grow louder around gender discrimination and stereotyping. Some other players in the category include Proctor & Gamble, Himalaya, Lotus Herbals, and Nivea.
Ambi Parameswaran, founder, brand-building.com, said, "We may see surrogate advertising of fairness, like we see in the alcohol business. The shift from fairness to confidence has already been made by HUL. That may be the way for all brands to go. If consumers still want to look fair, they will decode these messages as they want and figure out which brands to use."